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Protesters in Germany block nuclear waste train

Thousands of protesters stopped a train bringing nuclear waste to Germany after clashes with police, who tried to break their blockade of the railway line in one of the biggest protests in the country for decades.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2010 13:15 IST

Thousands of protesters stopped a train bringing nuclear waste to Germany after clashes with police, who tried to break their blockade of the railway line in one of the biggest protests in the country for decades.

The train, which left Valognes in northern France on Friday with 123 tonnes of German nuclear reactor waste from the reprocessing plant in La Hague, was heading to the temporary nuclear waste storage site in Gorleben, in the state of Lower Saxony.

It was forced to make a halt 30 km away from its destination in Dannenberg by the demonstrators who staged a sit-in along the track throughout Sunday night.

Eleven special containers on board with the hazardous cargo are to be transferred to large trailer trucks in Dannenberg for the last lap of their journey to Gorleben.

Police officials in-charge of the operation said the train will continue its journey to Dannenberg on Monday.

Many of the demonstrators have been blocking the railway line since last afternoon. They are supported by around hundred farmers in their tractors, who blocked the access roads to Dannenberg to prevent the police from reaching the railway line, media reports said.

The demonstrators are protesting against the nuclear waste transport because they fear that the underground storage site is unsafe.

They are also outraged by Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition government's decision to extend the life of the country's 17 nuclear reactors on an average by 12 years, reversing the decision of a previous government to phase out all reactors by 2020.

Anti-nuclear activists argue that even after more than 40 years of nuclear power generation, Germany still has no permanent nuclear waste storage site and the problem of waste will become more acute when all 17 reactors continue their operation for a longer period than envisaged until now.

Clashes between police and the demonstrators continued throughout Sunday afternoon and late in the evening as police tried to remove the protestors from the railway line.

At some places, police used water cannons, truncheons and pepper spray against the demonstrators and they retaliated by throwing stones and fireworks at the police.

In one incident, the demonstrators set fire to an armed police vehicle. Police also prevented attempts by some demonstrators to damage the railway line by removing the gravel and soil from underneath the sleepers.

Police said several persons were injured in the clashes and a number of arrests were made.

Earlier, the train was forced to change its route after demonstrators blocked the railway line near the French-German border.

A 25,000 strong police force has been pressed into service to ensure the safety of the nuclear waste transport and the entire operation is estimated to cost around 25 million euros.